Many water wells in Iowa tainted by farm runoff, report finds

More than 40 percent of private wells tested positive for coliform bacteria at least once over a 16-year period, according to a new study of Iowa state records by the Environmental Working Group and the Iowa Environmental Council.

Delaware community takes on big poultry, citing pollution

On Wednesday, a Delaware community near a Mountaire poultry processing plant gave the company notice that in 90 days it would sue the plant for polluting its drinking water.

Worrisome levels of nitrate in drinking water for 7 million Americans

Seven million Americans who live in small cities and towns have worrisome levels of nitrates in their drinking water — below the federal limit of 10 milligrams per liter, but high enough to be associated with cancer in some studies, said an Environmental Working Group official. Craig Cox, head of EWG's Midwest office, said 1,683 communities had nitrate levels above 5 milligrams per liter and, when plotted on a map, they "crazily lined up with intensive agriculture."

Des Moines Water Works won’t appeal, asks Legislature to stop pollution

Voluntary action will not clean up Iowa waterways, so the state Legislature must "create bold laws that address water pollution," said Bill Stowe, chief executive of the Des Moines Water Works. The utility's board of trustees decided to seek a legislative solution to high nitrate levels in the Raccoon River rather than appeal the dismissal of their lawsuit against drainage districts in three counties in northwestern Iowa.

Des Moines City Council backs bill allowing Water Works takeover

Days after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by the Des Moines Water Works against farm runoff, the City Council voted to support a bill in the Iowa House allowing regionalization of the water utility, said the Des Moines Register. The chief executive of the Water Works says the regionalization bill, sponsored by a legislator who is a hog farmer, is retaliation for the lawsuit, which wanted to apply water pollution laws to agricultural runoff.

Farm groups offer to defray cost of fighting Des Moines lawsuit

Legal fees are already approaching $2 million in the potentially landmark suit by the Des Moines Water Works against three counties in northwest Iowa over nitrate pollution in the Raccoon River, says the Des Moines Register. The Iowa Farm Bureau and Iowa Corn Growers Association offered financial aid to Buena Vista, Sac and Calhoun counties following their decision to sever a relationship with the private nonprofit Agricultural Legal Defense Fund.

Oats to the rescue in Iowa?

With corn and soybean prices plummeting, and pressure to reduce runoff from fields mounting, some Iowa farmers are turning to oats as a possible solution to both problems, says Harvest Public Media.

Big Data ag company to build weather-and-soil monitoring system

Climate Corp., a subsidiary of Monsanto, says it will develop its own in-field network of weather and soil monitors—including a sensor that tracks nitrate levels—to broaden its agronomic models that help farmers decide their crop strategies. The nitrate sensor could mean more efficient use of nitrogen fertilizer and less runoff into waterways.

Report: Ag is largest source of nitrate pollution in California

Synthetic fertilizer accounts for more than a third of the 1.8 million tons of new nitrogen entering California each year, and animal feed accounts for another 12 percent, making agriculture the largest single source of nitrate pollution in the state, according to a new report from the UC Davis Agriculture Sustainability Institute and the University of California division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Climate-change risk: toxic agents in crops

A report by the United Nations Environment Program says drought and higher temperatures, forecast as part of climate change, can trigger a build-up in crops of chemical compounds that are toxic to animals and humans. Nitrates can accumulate to dangerous levels in grain during drought, while carcinogenic fungal aflatoixins are expected to become an increasing risk in higher latitudes as average temperatures rise.

Judge postpones to 2017 trial of Des Moines Water Works lawsuit

Trial of the potentially precedent-setting lawsuit by the Des Moines Water Works over high nitrate levels in river water was rescheduled to June 26, 2017, rather than starting this August, reports the Des Moines Register. The lawsuit says federal clean-water laws should apply to agricultural runoff that flows through drainage districts in three northwestern Iowa counties and into the Raccoon River, a source of drinking water for Iowa's capital city and suburbs.

Iowa counties spend $1.1 million in Des Moines water lawsuit

Three counties in northwest Iowa have spent $1.1 million on attorney fees to defend themselves against a lawsuit by the Des Moines Water Works that blames the counties for high nitrate levels in river water, said the Des Moines Register.

Buffer strips should be mandatory, says EWG

Landowners should be required to keep a 50-foot-wide buffer strip of permanent vegetation between cropland and waterways, said the Environmental Working Group, which proposed four "basic standards of care" to control agricultural runoff.

Interview: Des Moines case has ‘changed the conversation’ on water quality

In Iowa, a lawsuit by the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) is forcing the state to confront the question of whether agriculture should be held accountable for nitrates that leach into urban drinking water. FERN’s Kristina Johnson recently spoke with Neil Hamilton, director of the Agricultural Law Center at Iowa’s Drake University, to learn more about the suit.

‘The trouble with Iowa’

Leading into the Feb. 1 precinct caucuses that begin the presidential nomination process, Harper's says in a cover story that "it seems to defy reason" that Iowa, a farm state with a population of 3 million, "should play such an out-sized role. But Iowa is not over. In fact, it may be more relevant than ever."

Iowa Supreme Court to mull responsibility on nutrient pollution

The Des Moines Water Works federal lawsuit over nitrate runoff into the Raccoon River is taking a detour to the Iowa Supreme Court, says DTN. The lawsuit could set a precedent with its argument that 10 drainage districts in northwestern Iowa should be regulated as "point sources" of pollution and required to meet clean-water standards.

Iowa grapples with water quality challenges

A day after the Des Moines Water Works reported record daily use of its nitrate-removal equipment, the Agriculture Department offered to pay annual rent to landowners to enroll up to 85,000 acres of farmland in programs to reduce runoff.

Nitrate levels remain high in U.S. rivers

Long-term monitoring of nitrate levels in 22 large rivers shows no widespread evidence of improvement, although nitrogen from fertilizer and livestock sources has been fairly stable since the 1980s, says the U.S. Geological Survey.

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